The US Air Force has received its first AT-6E Wolverine light-attack aircraft that would help it improve cooperation and sharing of data with allies during operations across the globe.
The twin-seat, single-engine turboprop aircraft was inducted into the armed forces, as announced by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), one of the six centers reporting to the Air Force Materiel Command.
AFLCMC, which is responsible for the life cycle management of Air Force weapon systems from their inception to retirement, announced the arrival of the aircraft on Wednesday (February 17).
Developed by Beechcraft, a division of the Rhode Island-headquartered Textron aviation, the AT-6E is a variant of the T-6 Texan II trainer that is configured for light attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
Following the developments, the official Twitter account of the AFLCMC tweeted,
“A new aircraft just entered the @usairforce fleet!”
“Congrats to our Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate’s Light Attack Aircraft Program Office, for leading efforts to acquire and field @TextronAviation’s AT-6 Wolverine!”
A new aircraft just entered the @usairforce fleet! Congrats to our Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate’s Light Attack Aircraft Program Office, for leading efforts to acquire and field @TextronAviation’s AT-6 Wolverine! (Photos By Brett Schauf) pic.twitter.com/mUoZLO6jT5
— Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (@AFLCMCofficial) February 17, 2021
It was responded to by Textron’s Twitter account, which said, “Making history in the Air Capital of the World — Congratulations to @usairforce for receiving its first @Beechcraft AT-6E Wolverine.”
— Textron Aviation Defense (@TxtAvDefense) February 17, 2021
The unarmed versions of the Texan II aircraft are already operated by the US Air Force, US Army, as well as the US Navy.
It is believed that the AT-6E received by the US Air Force, also possesses a prominent circular antenna on top of its nose typically associated with satellite communications systems.
Importantly, the US Air Force pledged to acquire three of the new aircraft to support a program called the Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network, or AEROnet.
The program is focused on developing low-cost communication and data-sharing architecture to help allies and partners to work together in a much better fashion during coalition operations.
“Think of the partner nations that wouldn’t necessarily be allowed to have Type 1 encryption, which is the encryption we have in Link 16 and things like that, but we still need to build our coalition,” said former Air Force Brigadier General Michael Schmidt, the Program Executive Officer for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, and Networks at AFLCMC.
Retired Air Force General Mike Holmes, the former head of ACC, had said the network provided in the program will meet all the security requirements needed.
“What can we offer in a network that is exportable, that meets all the security requirements that can interlink people with each other and with us, that can take advantage of all the different communication systems that are out there already,
“You’re offering a network that has airplanes, too, that fit in with it and not, here’s a big airplane, now go figure out how you’re going to talk to it and how you’re going to use it.”
According to The Aviationist, the new aircraft “features an impressive array of communication capabilities with ARC-210 radios/VHF/UHF/AES Encryption/SATCOM/Iridium Cell Satellite/AERONet/Full motion ROVER video/GPS precision approach and more”.
The aircraft is also equipped with the same mission computer which is on board Air Force’s A-10cs. The Wolverine’s hands-on-throttle-
There are significant differences between the AT-6E Wolverines and the standard Texan II trainers, with the visible distinction being the presence of the AT-6E’s six underwing pylons.
Various precision-guided bombs and missiles, as well as rocket and gun pods, can be accommodated on them.
The aircraft has an additional compartment under the fuselage, which is typically occupied by a sensor turret containing electro-optical and infrared cameras.
According to reports, the model operated by the US Air Force also has a WESCAM MX-15D turret, which includes a laser designator, from L3Harris.